8 Things I Would Tell My 16-Year-Old Self

{By Ellery Sadler}

A few key things to remember during the complicated years of high school.

8 things i wish i had known at sixteen

1. Love is Later

Yeah, I know that crush has you on cloud nine or that girl who broke up with you has you driving with the music up loud. I know the tears are real tears. And the feelings are real feelings. But most of the time true love comes later than early teens. I’ve been there. It’s really hard and can be incredibly painful or incredibly amazing. But love isn’t just a fluttery feeling or a flirty text. Love is commitment. Love is faithfulness. Love is sacrifice. And that comes with maturity.

2. No Matter What God is Good

Life can throw anything (literally anything) you’re way. From the death of a family member to a best friend’s betrayal to a move across the county and through it all, God is good. It takes time to realize this, but while you’re going through a hard time just stick a note to your mirror or save it as your screensaver on your phone: God is good. Always. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

3. Relax, Life Isn’t A Race

It is so easy to be caught up in the race for success. Who has the best boyfriend/girlfriend? Who has the best summer job? The best resume? The coolest friends?

For me, the race was always in regards to writing. At 14 I wanted desperately to be a published author. At 16 I was even more desperate. And today, I’d still like to get published. But I’ve learned that excellence takes time. And I’m willing to wait. Even if I don’t get published till I’m 50 or I never get published at all, that’s ok, as long as I know I’m doing what God wants me to be doing.

Really, life isn’t a race. It’s ok if you take a little longer to finish school or become famous or write that book or take that trip or start that business. Life is meant to be savored – not wolfed down as fast as possible.

4. Challenge Yourself, Invest in Yourself

Don’t just glide through school. Don’t just slide along on the team. Don’t just read the required reading over the summer. Challenge yourself. Dig deeper.

If you already are the best on the team, that’s great. But be the best you can be.

If you already do great in school, that’s awesome. But learn the most you can learn. Don’t just study to ‘get by’. Study to invest in yourself. And as you are investing in yourself, you are investing in the people around you, because the knowledge you acquire can be passed on to them.

5. You Are Young

Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but seriously, sixteen is not the new twenty-five. So it’s ok. Enjoy being young – invest in your family, in your friends, in your education. And embrace where you are in life. This is the time to be experiencing and enjoying – not worrying. Don’t take life too seriously.

6. Girls, Girlfriends Are More Important

When you are sixteen, a guy is not worth giving up a girlfriend for. Girlfriends come first. In 5 or 10 years when you’re married, you’re not going to have a group of super ‘close’ guy-friends. But you will want to have a circle of good girlfriends. Don’t ditch or backstab or ruin a friendship for the sake of some guy who will probably move on and out of your life within a year or two. Having good, solid relationships with other girls is one of the biggest blessings in life.

7. Guys, Guys Come First

While media, movies, and everything else may tell you otherwise – right now, guy friends are actually the most important  in your life. Girls are fun to talk to and fun to be with and pretty, but your focus should be on making good, solid friendships with guys. Create deep and meaningful relationships with other guys of all ages, especially older guys. You have so much to learn from older men who understand what it means to walk as a man of God and live with integrity. Invest in those friendships.

Of course, its great to have good friends-who-are-girls too. Just be aware that in the end, you’ll have one special girl in your life. You don’t need twenty.

 8. Forget Yourself

As the very wise C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” While this holds true for all of life, I think it is especially important during your teenage years.

A life worth living is lived for others. 

Don’t get so caught up in your own thoughts or your own self-made drama that you forget about the outside world. There are so many people who need a smile today, a hug in the hallway, someone to sit with at lunch. Listen. Open your eyes to the people in need around you and then have the courage to do something about it.

I think life was never meant to be a solo, introspective journey. It is a trip, an adventure. And adventures are best when they’re shared. Otherwise they’re just scary.

So lose yourself in bringing joy to the lives of the people around you.

Bonus 9. Learn to Laugh at Life

Life is hilarious. Learn to look for the humor and make sure your laugh-lines are always deeper than your fears.

What do you wish you had known when you were sixteen? Comment below! 


  1. Katy Duryea says:

    Ellery, I adored reading this. Thank you so much for sharing. There were so many things that I needed to read in this post.

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